THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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February 2009
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April 2009

March 2009

Age diplomacy

Tesco to challenge any person who looks under 25 if they buy alcohol - Telegraph.

I have sympathy for Tesco. The law puts the company at risk of losing valuable alcohol sales if employees make innocent mistakes. I feel sorry for managers who must train staff to handle the situation without upsetting customers. For example, as a matter of basic marketing, they will need to be told to "challenge" women well in excess of 25, for fear they may be offended.

A lady I know in her late thirties was "chatted up" by a supermarket employee on the pretext that he needed to verify her age as she was buying booze. I don't often give advice on matters of the heart, but I can inform my male readers that this "line" was very well received. I was not surprised. When working part-time as a barman decades ago, I was asked by an elderly lady for "a Gin and IT". I had to confess I didn't know what it was and she explained it was "very popular in the 50s". Smiling, I said I supposed her mother must have told her about it. She made her husband buy me a drink not only that night, but every night until I left.

Bad though they may be for society in general, all stupid laws are marketing opportunities for someone (if only a lawyer). Tesco are treading on sensitive ground. I wish them luck in treading lightly.

President Lula Da Silva on the Credit Crunch

Brazil President Lula Da Silva Says White People Caused Credit Crunch, After Meeing Gordon Brown | Politics | Sky News.

I see that other countries' leaders have just as profound a grasp of the situation as our own. Poor President Da Silva will now, sadly, face ignorant criticism from the "identity politics" left and the race-obsessed British media.

Or do they only break butterflies on their wheels?

Treasury fails to sell Government bonds

City alarm as Treasury fails to sell Government gilts - Telegraph.

BanknoteIt was always likely that the UK government's bond issues to fund its "stimulus" packages would fail. Those with money to invest have choices. Financing politicians' desperate attempts to restore the economic la la land of the last decade for the duration of an election campaign is not an obvious one. I guess Gordon Brown might be forgiven for having hoped otherwise, given other investment choices made in the last decade. However, the people who made those bad choices had some, albeit misguided, hope of a return on their investment.

Sadly, though the government's credit has limits, its capacity to print money does not. But banknotes (technically promissory notes) are also, in a broad sense, a kind of bond backed by the government's credit. "Credit" comes from the same root as "credible", namely credere, "to believe." If we don't believe the promise to pay implied by the the issue of a banknote (and in the case of a Bank of England note, actually written on it), then its value inevitably declines.

This government is playing with economic fire. If it doesn't soon reign in its spending plans to restore confidence in its credit, it will make a bonfire of our children's patrimony.

MPs call for £40,000 pay rise

Tony McNulty row: MPs call for £40,000 pay rise - Telegraph.

They really don't get it, do they? One of them is caught scamming the system and they demand a pay rise to compensate them for the fact it's going to be more difficult to do such things in future. Before anyone protests, I think the word "scamming" is perfectly fair. Whether or not the system permits claims such as McNulty's, anyone with a shred of morality would have known it was wrong. Indeed, McNulty himself (when detected) more or less admitted as much. He hasn't quite said "It's a fair cop, guv", but in fairness to him he has not tried to defend his disgraceful behaviour.

Personally, I would willingly agree to give MPs a pay rise, if they were doing their job. They are supposed to be our law makers; free members of an independent legislature, not the poodles of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. They are supposed to hold the Executive to account. They are the peoples' tribunes - the only protectors of our liberties under our weak constitution. They are supposed to clear the expenditure of taxpayers' money in advance and then monitor that expenditure against budgets. They are doing none of those things and many of them appear to be moral degenerates to boot.

I would have thought many of them were too thick to fulfil their financial monitoring role, but the evidence is they can be pretty sharp when their own finances are at stake. Perhaps they should apply some of that to our money too?

An ordinary girl

Obituary: Jade Goody | Media |

Jade Goody's life says much about Britain. She was a mouthy, fun-loving working-class English girl. The sort of person Guardian readers pretend to care about. After all, their ideology proclaims such people as a vanguard class; a class so important that it deserves to exercise dictatorship. I have observed, in my own life, that when such middle class socialists actually meet the working class, they don't like us very much.

I grew up with girls like Jade. She shocked me, but not because (like hypocritical Guardian Socialists) I am a snob. I found it shocking that the state education system had left her not merely uneducated, but (until close to the end) unaware of it. The "shamelessness" the Guardian opines about is typical, but not surprising. After all, her teachers would have told her that her views were just as "valid" as anyone else's (regardless of whether they were grounded in study or experience). If they drilled anything into her, it was certainly not a love of literature or history. Rather it was the fear of being called certain dangerous names, such as "racist." How like a whipped pup she was, for all her exuberance, when she was called that taboo name.

She was not bright, but I have known many older people from similar backgrounds who read books and poems for pleasure and who could write a well-constructed and properly-spelled letter. She was betrayed by her country, which has sacrificed education on the altar of a bastardised Marxism. She was betrayed by our media too. They exploited her ignorance, set her up to fall, and then twisted trivial remarks to denounce her - ludicrously - as "Public Enemy No. 1". They whipped up other uneducated, ignorant people to shout "bitch" and "witch" at her, just as their ancestors might have done centuries before public education was invented. And now they have made a saint of her. Just as self-servingly.

Jade Goody was an ordinary woman, in extraordinary circumstances. In the end, I would like to think she made a fool of her tormentors. Albeit at the cost of some pain to everyone else suffering from cancer at present, with the help of the odious Max Clifford she turned their firepower on them. She made a fortune which (if her repellent husband doesn't get his crim mitts on it) will help to raise her children. Best of all, in her final weeks, she made the only intelligent comment of her short life. She said she realised she was uneducated (pace Archbishop Cranmer, that was her first glimmering of wisdom) and that she wanted to make the money to provide private education for her children. I hope they get it. If Mr Clifford put her in touch with a lawyer to establish a trust which will defend her wealth against her husband, mother and hangers-on, then I will be prepared to think my first good thought about him.

Jade Goody was a celebrity. She could have been so much more. Unlike the middle-class educationalists who dumb down our system because children like Jade (and me, in my time) "can't cope" or "have a short attention span", I know that the ordinary boys and girls of Britain have potential which is being squandered by the shedload. While the media sentimentalises an unfortunate drop of the ball on the roulette wheel of nature, spare a thought for all the Jades and Sharons and Toms who will never know the wonders of their culture. They will never live their lives to the full - whether cancer gets them or not - because of the evil Guardian readers (and writers) in Britain's educational establishment. Jade Goody's life was less pointless than that of such people. They waste the education they were lucky enough to receive by denying education to others. All on the basis of a crazed ideology that relentlessly demonises and destroys human potential.

Rest in peace, Jade. God rot you, Polly Toynbee and all your ilk.

On the road again

TripLast week was great fun. I was attending the 20th MIPIM event in Cannes (I have been to the last 19). I decided to make something special of it by driving Vittoria from the North. After stopping in London to pick up a friend we headed for Eurotunel and the dash south. We overnighted in Epernay.

As the very subdued event drew to a close, I set off early on Friday morning with another friend on board (Bill Primrose, sometime guest blogger here). We drove to Switzerland via Italy and the Great St Bernard pass. I dropped Bill off at his daughter's chalet and carried on to rendezvous with a third friend.

We went to the Geneva Motor Show together and then I spent Saturday with him at his amazing chalet in Crans Montana. On Sunday I drove solo non-stop (apart from two refuellings) to London, again via Eurotunnel. It was brilliant, but left little time for blogging.

This week is not quite so much fun. I am with Mrs P for one of her three-weekly cycles of treatment. However tomorrow I do get to celebrate my birthday in style at the Dorchester Grill with Mrs P and both of the Misses P., before driving north again.

I am flying back to Moscow and the workaday routine on Thursday, equipped with another small store of great memories.

Sporting achievment, good. Educational achievment, bad.

Three As no longer enough for university - Times Online.

Jacksonadlington Today, on page 70 (and the back page headline) the Times celebrates a spectacular double achievement in  swimming. Two British women in the same race broke the 400 metre world record.  Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington came second to bronze medallist Joanna Jackson. It was a marvellous achievement which takes both of them into the category of sporting "greats". Quite rightly, the nation is proud.

Meanwhile on page 1, the Times expresses its fears of "a new educational elitism" as Cambridge University (Britain's highest-ranked in the Shanghai University world league table) announces a change in its admissions policies. The University says it will expect at least one grade A* A level score from 2010 and will raise the bar to 2 A*s "in the fullness of time."

The Times breathlessly quotes an education lobby group ("founded in 1997 by Sir Peter Lampi with the aim of promoting social mobility through education") as saying;

...using the A* would benefit only students at the best schools. Its director, Lee Elliot Major, described it as “another sign of the ever-growing arms race that defines the issue of social mobility...

Sir Peter went to Corpus Christi Oxford and the London Business School. He is a philanthropist who has laudably funded projects to help working-class kids such as he and I once were to get access to the best universities. The reason he had a chance (and today's kids don't) is fairly obvious from his resume;

However, he declines, with heroic political correctness, to attribute the decline in social mobility to the wretched comprehensive schools imposed on Britain by its Marxist educational establishment.  His spokesman's comments are truly bizarre. The A* grade is being introduced because grade inflation has rendered the existing A grade useless for selecting the best. Why would any university not use it? If (as the Sutton Trust fears) those with private education are more likely to get an A*, then perhaps it is time to ask - with fearless academic rigour - the bleeding obvious question "Why are Britain's state schools so crap?"

When the Times, voice of Britain's establishment, finally suggests that qualifying heats for sporting events should be abolished and that - as the facilities in private schools for sport are better - there should be social class quotas for membership of the national sports teams, we will be finished as a sporting nation. But at least we will be intellectually consistent.